Police are cracking down on rival teenage gangs in India’s city of Prayagraj following a series of small bomb blasts outside schools in the past three months. The case has alarmed authorities, parents and educators who are concerned that young people are learning how to make small bombs on YouTube.
The gangs’ dangerous turf war has led to at least six bomb attacks in the city. Police say that students on bikes and motorcycles hurled the bombs and even recorded and posted videos of their attacks on socia media.
According to interrogation reports and police statements, the students made the bombs out of electrical tape, explosive material from firecrackers mixed with glass shards from used beer bottles and stones, after watching tutorials on YouTube and social media.
"The interrogation reports have left us shocked as these minors seem to have become experts in making a low-intensity bomb in minutes,” police officer Shailesh Kumar Pandey told the Times of India.
The attacks were largely carried out by two rival student gangs named “Immortals” and “Tandav,” both wishing to assert dominance over the other. However, police believe that the gangs are part of a larger network of 10 groups with hundreds of members on WhatsApp and Instagram. These networks, which police say were being used to coordinate the attacks, are currently being investigated.
So far 35 students have been detained, out of which 27 are between 14 to 17 years old, while the remaining eight are of legal age. The minors have been sent to juvenile correctional facilities while the adults were jailed. Police are currently tracking down six more students whose names have come up during interrogations. Two crude bombs, two motorcycles and 10 mobile phones have also been seized by police.
The majority of the accused hail from wealthy backgrounds and are enrolled in elite schools in the area.
“These students would take money from their parents on the pretext of educational tours and extra-curricular activities to fund their bomb-making and lavish lifestyles," Police Inspector General Rakesh Singh told the press. However, police have also said that it could cost as little as $1 to make an improvised bomb.
In the wake of the arrests, schools in the city have banned mobile phones on their campuses and started offering counselling programs to students. Police have urged the parents of the detained students to seek psychological counselling for their children.
Parents, teachers and other authority figures should handle the students with care as they counsel them, clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany told VICE World News.
“A lot of punitive methods are typically used by parents and schools, which is not the solution. We are increasing the violence by being violent with them,” she said. “We need to understand the root cause behind these behaviours to deal with them.”
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